The Briefing 05-01-15

The Briefing 05-01-15

The Briefing


May 1, 2015

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It’s Friday, May 1, 2015.  I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

1) Nick Loeb presents unexpected defense of dignity of human life of embryos

The Christian biblical worldview points to the sanctity and dignity of every single human life at every point of development. One of the most crucial points of development at which human dignity is now at risk is at the level of an embryo, at that stage of human development. The Christian biblical worldview tells us that every single human embryo is a human person, deserving of protection and the full recognition of the sanctity of life. That has been undermined by so many developments in assisted reproductive technology, by the fact that there are now millions it is presumed of frozen embryos that will one day be discarded or destroyed in American reproductive technology clinics, and also by the fact that for most Americans the frozen embryos are out of sight and out of mind.

That’s what makes an article that appeared this week in the New York Times of such importance because sometimes an argument on behalf of human dignity appears from an unexpected source in an unexpected place, at an unexpected time. Nick Loeb’s article that appeared as an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Thursday fits all of those criteria. It is very unexpected. The headline is also unexpectedly clear: Frozen Embryos Have a Right to Live. Nick Loeb takes us right into the story as he writes from Delray Beach Florida,

“Last August, I filed a complaint in Santa Monica, Calif., using pseudonyms, to protect two frozen embryos I created with my former fiancée. I wanted to keep this private, but recently the story broke to the world.”

He explains his concern when he writes,

“When we create embryos for the purpose of life, should we not define them as life, rather than as property? Does one person’s desire to avoid biological parenthood (free of any legal obligations) outweigh another’s religious beliefs in the sanctity of life and desire to be a parent? A woman is entitled to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man objects. Shouldn’t a man who is willing to take on all parental responsibilities be similarly entitled to bring his embryos to term even if the woman objects?”

Nick Loeb writes out of the heartbreak of trying to become a parent. He writes about several incidents in his life including a former marriage in which parenthood was not successful, even though it is clearly his heart’s desire to be a father. He writes with a deep moral sense of urgency about the two little girl embryos that are now in storage and are very much at stake. It is because his ex-fiancée, with whom the embryos were created, has refused to allow him to have access to the embryos, arguing through her attorney in court that the embryos should remain in a frozen state indefinitely.

Nick Loeb then writes, what about the moral status of those little girls? He even boldly refers to them as little girls. He wants to have those little girls born and he wants to raise them as his own. He wants to release his former fiancée, with whom the embryos were created, from any ongoing financial or legal obligation or responsibility, but at present she is able to block him even from gaining access to these embryos preferring that they remain in a frozen state indefinitely rather than that they be allowed to live.

There are all kinds of moral issues involved here, including the fact that Loeb and his fiancée at that time were not married – that’s very clear – but also by the use of these assisted reproductive technologies both are responsible for bringing these frozen embryos into existence. But now that those embryos exist the moral issue is what shall be done with them? And the moral situation is that Nick Loeb wants to bring these embryos to full gestation and then to raise them as his daughters. He’s been prevented from doing so, at least at present, under the law because the woman in this case has a legal right – at least at this point – to prevent these embryos from being unfrozen at any point.

Nick Loeb writes about the yearning in his life and the moral responsibility for those two little girls. He then says,

“Many have asked me: Why not just move on and have a family of your own? I have every intention of doing so. But that doesn’t mean I should let the two lives I have already created be destroyed or sit in a freezer until the end of time.”

That’s a profoundly important paragraph. Once again we simply insert the fact that this was found in Thursday’s edition of the New York Times. That is altogether very interesting. Why would the New York Times that is heretofore offered no encouragement in terms of the moral status of even babies in the womb when it comes to the issue of abortion and certainly has never, at least to my knowledge, offered any encouragement when it comes to understanding the moral status, the personhood, of frozen embryos that are now in laboratories – why did this article appear? Why Thursday did an article by Nick Loeb with the headline Frozen Embryos Have a Right to Live appear in the New York Times?

Well the story is also embedded in the article. Nick Loeb is a very wealthy businessman whose former fiancée, in this case the mother of the embryos, is Sofía Vergara, an actress well known for starring on ABC series “Modern Family.” That ABC series is well-known in terms of the moral revolution, especially when it comes to sexuality in our culture, because two of the prominent characters on that program are a male couple who are not only married but also parents. And that leads to the fact that when you consider the modern family being presented in terms of the new moral revolution on ABC, it turns out that there’s even more to the modern family story than appears on screen and that is made very clear in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times; it is made very clear in an article by the ex-fiancée of Sofía Vergara, who is simply asking in this article why he cannot be allowed to have these two little girls as embryos now so that they can come to life and he can raise them as a father.

At the end of his article he simply says,

“I take the responsibility and obligation of being a parent very seriously. This is not just about saving lives; it is also about being pro-parent.”

Now the startling thing, in terms of that final paragraph in this article, is that yesterday’s edition of the New York Times included an explicit statement found on the opinion page by a man stating that the unborn human embryos about which he is so concerned our lives worth saving. They certainly are, but this article points to the moral quandaries that come with all kinds of new technologies and with the revolution in morals and the revolution that is happening in the family. As we’ve said, it turns out that when you’re watching “Modern Family” there’s more about the modern family than you see on screen.

2) Commodification of human reproduction exposed by effects of Nepal earthquake

Next, before leaving the issue of assisted reproductive technology, one of the headlines that had to do with the earthquake that was so devastating in Nepal in recent days was this, Babies Born to Surrogate Mothers Flown to Israel. Now as we’re praying for the people of Nepal – the death toll now over 4,000 people in the aftermath of that earthquake – as is almost always the case, stories emerge that tell us there is far more to the story than we first knew.

Jane Onyanga-Omara writes,

“Among those rescued from the aftermath of Saturday’s devastating earthquake in Nepal were babies born to surrogate mothers and their Israeli families.

“A small plane carrying premature babies — along with wounded people — landed in Israel early Monday, followed by another aircraft with five more infants and their Israeli families aboard, [this according to the] Jerusalem Post….

“Israel on Sunday said it planned to airlift 25 babies recently born to Indian surrogates in the Nepalese capital of Katmandu — whose parents are mostly same-sex [Israeli parents]”

Later in the article we read,

“Commercial surrogacy is banned in most nations. In the United States, it is legal in some states and can cost more than $100,000, leading some prospective parents to seek services in countries including India, Russia and Ukraine, where it can be half the price.”

The article also says that in Israel, according to Israeli law, same-sex couples do not have access to surrogacy – leading to the fact that many are now going to Kathmandu looking to become parents by means of hiring a surrogate. The main point from the Christian worldview here is that what we’re looking at is a commodification of human reproduction. We’re looking at the fact that an earthquake in the Nepal includes as one of its less known headlines the fact that in that earthquake were 25 babies from Israel being raised by a contract between Israeli mostly same-sex couples and surrogate mothers in Kathmandu.

It tells us a great deal about the moral revolution of our times that in a single week we can have headlines as unrelated as this pointing to the same reality – the new modern age has brought modern assisted reproductive technologies that come at an enormous moral cost. And what we’re looking at here are headlines that come from the New York Times about two frozen human embryos in the United States and also about 25 babies born to surrogate mothers for Israelis in Kathmandu.

3) Velocity of moral revolution on gay marriage evident in comparison to past social issues

And speaking of that moral revolution we had pointed out repeatedly that it is coming with an unprecedented velocity. We’ve looked at historical accounts, looking at the fact that this particular revolution when it comes to redefining marriage and sexual morality has come more quickly than other long-term moral efforts that have taken the better part of centuries in order to be accomplished. But now we have documentation coming from a rather unusual source. Bloomberg Business has put out a graphic this week entitled, This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind. It looks at a number of moral issues in which the nation has changed its mind: interracial marriage, prohibition, women suffrage, abortion, same-sex marriage, and recreational marijuana.

The point of the graphic is very clear. It is on the question of same-sex marriage that America has moved most quickly of all. And when it comes to same-sex marriage it is not just a standout, it is a stand out with only one parallel and that parallel is very instructive. That parallel at this point is the issue of abortion. What Bloomberg is looking at is the point at which an issue became a question of public law and when there was a government intervention to supposedly settle the issue.

On the issue of abortion, they’re dating the beginning of the controversy to somewhere in the early 1970s and the conclusion of that issue in 1973 with the Supreme Court’s Roe V Wade decision. Now looking at this the problem with this graph is it doesn’t point to the fact that there were very long-term controversies over abortion, it’s one of the issues that was most controversial in America even in the last decades of the 19th century. But understanding how they did this, it is interesting that legislative efforts to try to legalize abortion were largely and quickly preempted by action of the United States Supreme Court. And that’s exactly what’s happening on the issue of same-sex marriage, and the graphic from Bloomberg BusinessWeek makes that abundantly clear.

They are in fact timing the issue between the legislative initiative and the federal action at about 2.5 years. Even when it comes to the issue of abortion, the beginning of legal action was only about six years before the Roe V Wade decision in 1973. In the case of same-sex marriage we’re looking at barely over two years. The moral velocity of this revolution is unprecedented. We know that from an historical analysis, we know it from judging different kinds of moral change over history; we know it of course now because even this graphic from Bloomberg Business Week tells us that as you’re looking at how a neutral secular source will consider this moral change. It has even caught the attention of Bloomberg Business Week that this particular revolution has come at nothing less than warp speed.

That tells us a great deal about our culture and its trajectory. As I said, it also points to the fact there’s a common link between the issue of abortion and same-sex marriage. It is because both of them, at this point, have been largely driven by the courts. When you look at the issue of abortion it was the 1973 intervention by the United States Supreme Court in the Roe case that changed the entire moral landscape, and that’s exactly what we now face as a likelihood with the decision on same-sex marriage expected from the same court late in June.

That points to both the relevance and the limitation of this Bloomberg BusinessWeek graphic because it really doesn’t point to moral change, it points to legal action and that is indicative of the pace of the moral change. But the moral change is actually more frightening than this graphic can demonstrate because a bigger concern to Christians must be not just what’s taking place in the mind of the courts, but what’s taking place in the hearts and minds of the American people. If we were able to come up with a graphic that would demonstrate the change of heart on the part of the American people, it will be even more instructive and even more revealing and certainly even more frightening than what we see here in this graphic from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

4) Bernie Sanders announces Democratic candidacy, making race more interesting

Next, here in the United States, the 2016 presidential race looms before us as one of the most definitive issues of our times. You one of the things you’ll hear from commentators almost every election cycle is, ‘this election means more than any before’ and in almost every case that’s actually true. It’s because the issues are growing greater in terms of importance and it is because as we look at our own political lifetimes the number of elections in which we are likely to be involved, every coming cycle seems to bring more and not fewer issues for our electoral interest and our voter responsibility.

One of the things to keep in mind by the way as we are thinking so much about the United States Supreme Court was brought to mind by Fred Barnes writing in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago when he pointed out that one of the consequences of the upcoming election is almost sure to be the direction of the nation’s highest court. He points out the no less than four of the current justices of the United States Supreme Court our age 76 or older – that really tells us something about the inevitable of the fact that the next presidential administration is likely to be one that will have a major impact on the future of the court.

But speaking about the election on the Democratic side, it got unexpectedly more interesting at the end of this week when Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he will run against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. Hillary Clinton is a household name in America and for a good deal of the world as well, Bernie Sanders – unless you’re a political insider – probably is not, but he is one of most colorful characters in the United States Senate.

He holds two distinctive in particular, others are sure to be added. On the one hand he’s the longest-serving independent in the United States Senate. The second thing is even more instructive, he is the only socialist, the only devout socialist in the current United States Senate. That’s what makes his entry into the race so interesting, he is an independent as United States Sen., but he is going to run for the Democratic nomination because that’s the means whereby he hopes to get on ballots state-by-state.

Bernie Sanders is a fascinating, very interesting figure; he’s a man of true political conviction. He is an about Democratic Socialists. Raised in a household of liberal secular Judaism during some of the most tumultuous decades of the 20th century, he is a man of the far left elected by the people of Vermont to the United States Senate and the expectation is that the clash of worldviews now in the Democratic Party will draw Hillary Clinton further to the left simply because Bernie Sanders appeals to so many, in terms of his populist arguments, as a socialist. It is going to be very interesting to watch.

Heretofore, most of the media thought that the great debate is likely to be held amongst the rather many Republican contenders for that party’s nomination, but now it’s almost certain that there will be a debate –if not a race – there is going to be a debate on the Democratic side. Those on the liberal side who had hoped for someone like Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run now have Bernie Sanders running as their progressive flag bearer. And it is going to be very interesting when you actually add a socialist to the race on the Democratic side, and when you know that this is a socialist who is almost certain to speak his mind.

And about his mind and his worldview, RNS ran a story on Friday reminding us the Bernie Sanders is one of the most unabashedly irreligious or secular members of the United States Congress. The article is by Lauren Markoe, and she points to the fact that Bernie Sanders is, as she says, the anti-Bible thumper. In her words, he is now the presidential contender most willing to disassociate himself from religion. Though he identifies as Jewish she writes,

“…and by Jewish law is Jewish, he has freely acknowledged that he is not a religious person.”

Growing up in a context of liberal Jewish activism, he is avowedly secular. He also has a 100% rating from the abortion-rights group NARAL pro-choice America. As we said to reference to the United States Supreme Court, elections have consequences and now the race for the Democratic nomination – though it might not be much of a political contest – is going to be very revealing at the level of worldview. Bernie Sanders is going to see to it. And that promises to make the 2016 presidential race even more interesting than we had expected.

5) Dissipation of teen summer jobs removes opportunity to learn work ethic, perspective

As we go into the weekend I want to point back to an article that appeared just a few days ago in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. It’s by writer Dave Shiflett and it has to do with something that is disappearing fast right before our eyes. What’s disappearing? The summer job for teenagers. As Shiflett writes, when he talked to people about their teenagers offspring these days very few of them have any reference to a summer job. They have summer experiences that they hope for. Some of them, he says – and this tells us about his friends – have teenagers that are going to study in an ashram for the summer or they’re going to go work with a documentary filmmaker. He says,

“What on Earth is an ashram? And when did teenagers start doing all these exotic things instead of working summer jobs?”

He says,

“I wish them well, of course, and hope that they build the finest latrines ever to grace the Guatemalan countryside. I should also acknowledge that I wish such opportunities had been available to me when I was growing up.”

But then he goes on to say,

“At the same time, there is value in recalling the grit and glory of traditional summer work, which has taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe—which turned out to be nowhere as close to the center as we had imagined.”

The article is actually glorious in its own way, pointing to what many of us in his generation discovered in terms of the summer job – that is that it was a major responsibility to work for someone who was going to give us a paycheck only if we delivered in terms of the labor that they expected. As Shiflett makes clear, a lot of the work wasn’t at all glorious. He writes about some construction jobs he had, he writes about some agrarian farm jobs he had, and most of us in that generation can look back and imagine all kinds of jobs we had and glory was not a part of it.

As he writes, one of the most important things that teenagers did learn from that experience was the work ethic. Something that is now something teenagers are going to have to gain at some other point of life than in the developing period of adolescence. Many of today’s young people, not only teenagers but many young adults, are effectively outside the job market – never learning these lessons. And Dave Shiflett points to another basic reality and that is, when you work for someone, even if just over summer, you do discover your place in the universe and it is not as close to the center as you might’ve thought.

Shiflett’s article is, as I said, very interesting – even humorous – glorious in its own way and it points to the reality that Christian parents operating from a biblical worldview understand, at some point our children have to understand that life is not delivered on a platter. At some point a work ethic is going to have to be developed. As Dave Shiflett says, even about teenagers who do not have a summer job, he says may the force be with them, but at some point they’re going to have to go out and do what they are not doing this summer. They are going to have to get a job.

Frozen embryos, surrogate moms, the sexual revolution, Bernie Sanders, and teenage summer job – that’s enough for a Friday.


Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For more information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to For information on Boyce College just go to

I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.


Podcast Transcript

1) Nick Loeb presents unexpected defense of dignity of human life of embryos

Frozen Embryos Have a Right to Live, New York Times (Nick Loeb)

2) Commodification of human reproduction exposed by effects of Nepal earthquake

Babies born to surrogate mothers flown out of Nepal, USA Today (Jane Onyanga-Omara)

3) Velocity of moral revolution on gay marriage evident in comparison to past social issues

This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (Alex Tribou and Keith Collins)

4) Bernie Sanders announces Democratic candidacy, making race more interesting

Why the Stakes in 2016 Are So High, Wall Street Journal (Fred Barnes)

Bernie Sanders Announces He Is Running for President, New York Times (Alan Rappeport)

5 faith facts about Bernie Sanders: Unabashedly irreligious, Religion News Service (Lauren Markoe)

5) Dissipation of teen summer jobs removes opportunity to learn work ethic, perspective

In Praise of the Teen Summer Job, Wall Street Journal (Dave Shiflett)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me using the contact form. Follow regular updates on Twitter at @albertmohler.

Subscribe via email for daily Briefings and more (unsubscribe at any time).